Record 16.3 million seek health coverage through ‘Obamacare’

More than three million new members joined the marketplace, according to the Department of Health and Human Services

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) demonstrate outside the US Supreme Court while the court hears oral arguments in the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in Washington, DC, USA, 10 November 2020.
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) demonstrate outside the US Supreme Court while the court hears oral arguments in the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in Washington, DC, USA, 10 November 2020.MICHAEL REYNOLDS (EFE)

A record 16.3 million people sought health insurance through the Affordable Care Act this year, double the number covered when the marketplaces first launched nearly a decade ago, the Biden administration announced Wednesday.

More than three million new members joined the marketplace, also known as “Obamacare,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The government worked with nonprofit groups and invested in program specialists who helped to sign people up in low-income, immigrant, Black and Latino communities to enroll more people, said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We made unprecedented investments to expand our enrollment organization footprint into nearly every county in the country and targeted the hardest to reach communities,” she said.

The boost in enrollment comes as the number of uninsured people is at an all-time low – just 8% of those in the United States remain without coverage.

President Joe Biden and a Democratic-led Congress have committed millions of dollars over the past two years into unlocking low-cost insurance plans for more people and prohibiting states from kicking people off Medicaid during the Covid-19 pandemic. The marketplace itself has also evolved in recent years, with more insurers joining, giving an overwhelming majority of Americans at least three plans to consider during enrollment.

Those breaks on coverages were extended through 2025 under a major climate and health care bill championed by Democrats last year.

Some of that progress is threatened this year, with millions of people expected to lose their Medicaid coverage starting this spring when states will begin the process of removing people who are no longer eligible, in many cases because their income is now too high to qualify.

Some of those who will lose Medicaid are expected to transition to the marketplace, and the administration said it is spending $12 million to keep information specialists on the job in the coming months to help people enroll in the health law’s marketplace if they lose Medicaid coverage.

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